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The release of Terrell Owens: What They're Saying

Time for a special edition of What They're Saying that is sub-titled The Popcorn Has Gone Stale. It's been 36 hours or so since the release of Terrell Owens made the news, so let's take a spin around the Cowboys organization and see what people are saying about his departure.

Let's start with the man himself, T.O. I'll say one thing quite sincerely: his first statements after the release are all class

"I want to thank Jerry Jones, Coach Phillips and the Dallas Cowboys for the opportunity to be a member of the team for the past three years.

A big thanks to the fans - you've been awesome! I look forward to the upcoming season and continuing to play in the NFL."

I was kind of wondering how Owens would treat his release in the public sphere and to be honest I thought he might take a swipe or two at Jerry and Co. But he didn't. Reports are that Jerry and Stephen flew to Owens (and agent Drew Rosenhaus) to deliver the news in person and that the meeting went well with the two sides shaking hands after it was over.

Much more after the jump.

In return, Jerry Jones had a few things to say about why he ended up making the decision to release Owens. The official team-release to the press stated: 

"This is a decision that was made based upon consideration for an entire team. We will move on now with a new team - a new attitude - and into a new stadium. The evaluation process and the prospect for change will continue at every level of the organization."

Interestingly they decided to separate out the words "a new attitude" in the release. I think that was a subtle clue as to what they were thinking but Jerry Jones returned the favor of staying classy by saying:

"We've got some other top receivers that we want to involve," Jerry Jones said. "We've got some backs that we want to involve in the passing game. We've got some tight ends that we want to involve in the passing game. At the end of the day, you can't have it all."

This is where it gets back to Jerry double-talking. On the one hand, it's nice that Jerry is saying it was all business; they just wanted to move on with the younger personnel and all that. There is probably some truth to it, if the Cowboys and Jason Garrett have any brains they will attempt to get the running game much more involved in 2009. We now know that we have a trio of top-flight RB's that can produce in this league so the amount of carries they get should go up.

On the other hand, Jerry is lying through his teeth when he tries to make it all about a youth movement or a change in philosophy on offense as the impetus for the release like he does here.

"When I look at our overall - and in this day in time, you've got to look at the makeup of your team from the cap standpoint, from a financial standpoint, you've got to look at the team from the aspects of what you're going to do with your weapons, your receivers, your running backs. When we really look at what we'd like to try to do, then we felt like this would give a couple other young receivers a shot and give Roy Williams the focus that we'd like to have."

"You take age as a consideration. You take where you are with your entire roster. You take into consideration a lot of times, especially with a position like receiver, do you want to give others more of an opportunity to develop?

"In this particular case, we have an outstanding player in Roy Williams, and it was a significant factor in the decision that I made to release Terrell."

Jerry just signed T.O. to a huge new contract one year ago and while Owens' production did slip some in 2008 he was still able to put up comparable numbers to the top WR's in the league. And that was with Tony Romo missing three games and all the other injuries we went through during the season. You don't sign someone to that kind of contract, have his production dip minimally like Owens' did and then suddenly decide he's too old and doesn't fit the offensive scheme any longer. That's a nice fiction and it's a classier way of sending T.O. on his way, but it's hardly the whole story. Heck, until very recently Jones had been crowing about seeing T.O. and Roy Williams on the field together for a full season. Now, he needs to get rid of T.O. to make way for RW (no longer RW2 with the release of RW1)? Not totally buying that.

Sometimes you have to go to other people to get the real story. Maybe a WR on the team who loves to talk? You're thinking Patrick Crayton, I'm thinking Sam Hurd

Hurd believes not having Owens on the field could help Romo.

"I know it takes a lot of pressure off Romo focusing on one main feature, like Terrell," Hurd said. "As a guy like him, he demands the ball, and it made you want to try to get him the ball. With him being released, he [Romo] doesn't have one main guy, so he can look at every one of us and see whichever one is open on any play and get the ball to him."

Now that has the smell of honesty and it also comes from someone who was about as close to the situation as you can get. In fact, there are a number of opinions out there that this move was about making the offense more Romo-friendly, a term Jerry introduced to the world a week or two ago. Peter King's article here is a representative example. At first it sounds counter-intuitive. Why would taking away a lethal weapon like T.O. benefit a QB like Romo? It comes back to attitude and the idea that Romo had to spend too much time catering to Owens' demands. Tacked on to this is the notion that Owens was not the most disciplined route-runner and that Romo was frustrated because T.O. was not always where he was supposed to be on certain plays. Go here to explore this theory a little more. It seems that the relationship between T.O. and Romo had been falling apart since that tearful moment after the Giants' playoff loss when Owens declared Romo "his quarterback."

Even further though was the crumbling of the relationship between Owens and the triumvirate: Romo, Jason Garret and Jason Witten. Again, the only people talking about this are the ‘anonymous sources' but they all seem to be in agreement. Some excerpts from an Albert Breer article: 

"Everyone liked his work ethic, and the bottom line for some people was that, especially on a high-profile team, his work would carry him through," said one source close to the situation. "But I know T.O. didn't have a lot of respect for Jason, and that led to the demise of their relationship. (Owens) told him that personally, and once he did that, there was no going back."

"He was calling out Witten, calling out Romo, calling out Garrett," another Cowboys source said. "I mean, those are three pretty good guys."

 I don't think age and scheme were quite the compelling factors for Owens' release that Jerry Jones is trying to make them. More likely it was Owens vs. the triumvirate that led to the divorce with some other factors sprinkled in. But not every body on the team saw things this way. In fact, plenty of the defensive players came to Owens' defense. Like Greg Ellis.

"I would say this about T.O. T.O. is the type of person who is going to say what's on his mind and if you really pay attention to it he's telling the truth. When you really break it down and analyze it he's telling the truth.

"Now when you look at him saying, 'I want to get the ball more,' to me I'm looking at it like he's like, 'I want to do more to help this team win.' I had a limited role this year myself so I definitely can relate to it. It's like, 'Man, I really feel like I know I can do more to help us win if given the opportunity to.' So he had a lot of frustrating times this year."

And Jay Ratlif:

I never understood all the hype and controversy about him being a distraction, because he's been a great teammate, at least from my experience." Ratliff said. "I guess he's the fall guy. I just don't understand it, and I don't know what else to say."

That is just a sampling. Ken Hamlin and Terence Newman had similar things to say. In an odd way, it appears that Owens got along better with the defensive side of the ball than some of the guys on offense.

But if this move is going to make the Cowboys offense Romo-friendly, he'll still need a #1 WR. RW thanks he'll fit the bill.

"No, no added pressure, it's not my first rodeo," Williams said later by cellphone. "I've been doing this since I was in Pop Warner."

"Yeah, 2008 is gone, so that's it," Williams said before heading to the plane. "I just came here to play ball. Right now I'm working out four times a week and then heading home. When off-season [workouts] start, I will get with Tony."

"Getting with Tony" is probably essential to any skill player's well-being on the new Romo-friendly Cowboys. Owens didn't get that. In his previous stops, Owens and QB's Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb had falling outs. I'm starting to think that happened here although much more quietly.  Jerry made a choice and went with his franchise QB.

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